Sony might need to rethink backing Dr. Luke in his lawsuit against Kesha.
The hashtag #FreeKesha movement has become so substantial, industry insiders wouldn't be surprised if Sony separates itself from imprint label Kemosabe Records which Dr. Luke heads. The overwhelming majority of the Internet is siding with Kesha in her case against Dr. Luke, whom she claims sexually & emotionally abused her and wants out of her contract with him so she can record music elsewhere. Last Friday, a judge denied her injunction, meaning she's tied down to Sony for six more albums, but social pressure is mounting to an all-time high and it might lead Sony to settle. Along with #FreeKesha, there's several other online movements underway to assist Kesha – a petition to boycott Sony with a target goal of 300,000 signatures (at the time of posting, it was only 50,000 away) and a GoFundMe campaign aiming to raise $2 million.
“I can’t imagine a scenario where $2 million would ever quite cut it, unless there’s serious concern about the Twitterati backlash,” says attorney James Sammataro who's not involved in the pending case to The Hollywood Reporter. “It may be enough of a social pressure to consider options they wouldn’t otherwise consider... Everything has a price tag,” he adds. “There is probably a number in which Sony — particularly if it’s sensitive to the potential backlash of growing support for Kesha on social media — would strongly consider releasing Kesha.”
That number might be met with growing support in Kesha's favor from celebrities who commandeer a dominating presence in social media like Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Demi Lovato and Taylor Swift. “We’ve seen what the power of Taylor Swift can do in the music industry,” says Sammataro. “She has a massive fan base that she can mobilize.”
One reason why Sony/Kemosabe aren't throwing up their hands and allowing Kesha to go her way is because they worry current and future artists may not take their recording contract serious. Daniel Zucker, executive vp business & legal affairs at RCA Records, a division of Sony, told the court in December that competition within the music industry is fierce and Kesha's case could lead to other labels stealing Sony’s artists.
“If Kesha is allowed to disregard her exclusivity obligations to Kemosabe Records without even alleging a breach of the RCA Recording Agreement … Sony’s credibility within the record industry will be irreparably injured,” Zucker wrote in an affidavit. “Allowing Kesha to rebuke her obligations to Kemosabe Records also sends a message to Sony’s other existing and potential artists that they may be able to disregard, at will, their contractual obligations.”
Sammataro points out even if Dr. Luke is innocent, his reputation is damaged and will cause artists to cease future collaborations in fear of being linked with an accused rapist. “He’s already been tried in the court of public opinion,” says Sammataro. “There’s going to be some reticence for people to work with him.”
Attorney Dina LaPolt says Dr. Luke “will lose everything to clear his name. Should he compromise? I think so, but he will go down with the ship.”
Sony must now decide if their contract with Kesha is worth losing out on potential revenue from future signees who decided against joining because they may fear they'll be put in an unsafe environment to create music.
“If they feel other well-known artists won’t sign with them in the future, they’ll take that into consideration in the economic analysis,” attorney Mark Passin said, adding one way Sony might compromise is by "reducing the number of remaining albums Kesha owes in her contract in exchange for a payment upfront and/or a royalty on future albums with whatever record label she signs with."
LaPolt expects Sony will go in damage control overdrive in the coming weeks.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s an announcement in the next couple of weeks that Sony has separated itself from his label,” she says.